EXECUTIVE PRODUCER NATIVE AMERICANS IN PHILANTHROPY SHARES A PERSONAL LETTER ON NATIVE AMERICAN STORYTELLING TRADITIONS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CROW: THE LEGEND
The Lakota people teach MITAKUYE OYASIN, which means “We are all related.” Mitakuye Oyasin reminds us that we are connected not only to the two legged, four legged and winged inhabitants of this planet, but to the plants and the earth itself, as well as the sky, moon, sun and stars. This is a foundational tenet of the Indigenous Wisdom that is central to healing and equity, and it guides our lives every day.
We share this wisdom through storytelling; with tales passed down through many generations over thousands of years. We are emotionally, physically and spiritually connected to these stories that teach us right from wrong, and that provide a framework for how to live fulsome, compassionate, and engaged lives. Outside of our cultural circles, these are largely unknown stories that have relevance for all of our lives.
So of course, “Crow: The Legend” resonated immediately with me as soon as I heard about it. The power behind the piece is a an authentic cultural and storytelling process conducted with integrity. Native perspectives were included from the very beginning, and we were invited to tell our own stories rather than having others tell them for us. The themes of Crow: The Legend – sacrifice, inclusivity, and community – connect directly to Mitakuye Oyasin.
Often our teachings come through an experiential learning process. The way VR technology has been used in Crow: The Legend is the perfect medium for this type of transformational teaching. It’s an exciting possibility for a new way of oral storytelling.
In this story, I play the role of the Moon, which is significant as the moon and the stars have importance to my tribe and people. I delighted in my interactions with the various animal characters; dancing and laughing…and encouraging Crow to do the right thing. This is an important through-line of many indigenous stories. Similarly, “The One Who Creates Everything by Thinking,” played by Oprah, is a powerful role. My tribe believes there is only one Great Spirit, and it’s incredible to see Oprah, from whom I learned about healing, play this role.
For Native Americans in Philanthropy, the organization I lead, partnering with a studio like Baobab has been a pleasure. Our advocacy work has been focused on catalyzing a cultural shift that honors Indigenous Worldview and brings our stories and truth, which have largely been left out of the narrative of America, to many.
During this process, Baobab and I discovered a scarcity of Native creators within the VR industry. This wasn’t due to lack of interest but rather an absence of opportunities. In response to this gap, Native Americans in Philanthropy partnered with BaoBab, Vision Maker Media and Longhouse Media to create a fellowship to support building pathways for Native American youth in VR.
I’ve been heartened to witness the growing interest in rethinking inclusion and creating new opportunities, as Baobab has. Indigenous Worldview is needed right now in this time and place in the world. We believe sharing it will result in ever more powerful stories that can reveal solutions to many of today’s problems and bring healing to our world. MITAKUYE OYASIN.